On Dec. 14 Halcyon Days begins. It’s an ancient tradition, of celebrating tranquility for 7 days prior to until 7 days after the Winter Solstice. This is when I turn my activities and awareness towards the soulful meaning of the season. This is the time of the Great Return of the Light. For me I believe in its full meaning.
As humans many of us are apprehensive about the dark, and as darkness increases I hold my hope that light will return, and take measures to secure hearth and home, prepare to hunker down, stay warm and bright. Suddenly I’m in the mood to clean, move things around, decorate and write, all to prepare for festivities during Advent. From time immemorial people have prepared for this season by purifying their lives, cleaning their homes, bringing in evergreen boughs, and completing old business.
And the best, to celebrate – it ALL. So now that the Small Art Holiday Special is ending, I can rotate my focus. It was grand fun to try something new online. And since I swore off trying to cash in on Christmas sales many years ago, it pushed my tolerance level for busyness. That’s mostly because I’m slowing down, while everything else is speeding up. Another reason to love the Winter Solstice, is less outdoor work, more introspection.
The calm and slowing down often results in surprising creative spurts. Reflecting back on this subject as I write on 12.12.19, one I’ve written and shared about for many years and recently in Atlas of the Year, I recalled “Holiday Revels”, finished on 12.12.12. This artwork is a Memory Theater for some of the ways to celebrate through the Halcyon Days. Cross culturally, it is the richest time of the year. All peoples have marked this time as significant.
Winter Solstice, is a momentous time of hope during the deepest darkness, the longest night of the year, we celebrate the rebirth of the sun. This moment is when the sun apparently stands still and begins its return to the north. It is a reverential time to reflect on the light and warmth returning to our world and our souls. I am grateful that spiritual leaders come forth bearing the Light of Truth to guide us.
The Hopis make Prayer Sticks in their Ceremony of Soyal to hold their prayers and give thanks for the return of the Katsina Spirit Guides who reside with us until Summer Solstice. The Prayer Stick reminds you of your prayer. Ask yourself: How can you make space in your heart for the Great Return of the Light? What is your deepest hope being born at this time?
At Newgrange, Ireland, a place predating the Pyramids at Giza, ancient Celts observed the sunrise Winter solstice sunbeam for 19 minutes from deep inside the immense earth mound, as it illuminated the back wall. Watchers waited for the sign of the event at other archeoastronomical sites like Chaco Canyon, NM, the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge, England, places in Peru and Cambodia. Clearly, it is a cross-cultural human event that connects us with our place in the cosmos.
December 22 is the last day of the year in the Celtic calendar, the last day of the Elder Tree Month, as well as the time of the solstice. December 23 is the extra day of the year, the Day out of Time~ a whole month in one magical day when the mistletoe is picked.
December 24 is the first day of the Celtic new year, which begins with the Birch Tree Month. The Solstice energy culminates on Christmas Eve, the Christ Spirit is born, bringing in spiritual gifts. December 25 is Christmas Day, celebrating the birth of Jesus. To the ancients, it was Dies Natalis Invictis Solis ~ Birthday of the Invincible Sun.
Now when we hope for world peace we can remember World Wisdom Traditions celebrated at this time: for Christians it is the birth of the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace. For the Celts it is Alban Artuan, the Light of Arthur. Art is the Gaelic word for bear, this is the time of the Ursa Minor Meteor Showers. For the Hopi it is Soyal when the Katsina spirit guides return to aid us. Hanukah is the Jewish Festival of Light. Kwanzaa is the African American festival of seven days of unity and celebration. The Zuni Solstice celebration culminates on New Year’s Eve with the New Fire Ceremony. For Persians it was the birth of Mithras, god of light & guardian against evil. Yalda, in Iran is a vigil through the night of keeping the fire burning brightly to help the sun (goodness) battle darkness (evil).
What traditions can you add to this list?
I invite you to renew your peaceful practices, be free of old perceptions and see everything in this NEW LIGHT.
PS: The origin of this comes from Greek mythology that rings true for today’s world I think:
“Halcyon comes from the Greek word for kingfisher. According to Greek legend, Halcyone and her husband were turned into kingfishers by the gods. It was believed that these birds built their nests on the sea during the seven days before the shortest day of the year and then sat on their eggs for the next seven days, and that the gods always ensured calm weather during this period.” quoted from The Free Dictionary.